Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The morning sun glitters on the glossy surface of a tranquil sea.  The little 60hp engines hum along steadily, to make up for the listless sails drooping from the mast.  My stomach is still uneasy from a bug I caught a few days past, but I make myself sit in front of this screen and type something.

I haven't blogged for what must be years now.  Last time I think I was riding my bicycle through Central America.  Back then I fancied being a travel blogger.  I was going to immortalize my adventures abroad with witty prose for an enraptured audience who would eventually fund my future destinations. But after taking a break for a few months to work for a nonprofit in Guatemala I came up with a better idea.  I would transcend the backpacker trek entirely and become a 'destination' by starting my own hostel. Surely there would be no shortage of stories to blog about there.  Somehow along the way I got distracted living the fast life in Panama. The whirl of bright lights and late nights wasn't terribly conducive for reflection and documentation and eventually I was left dazed and confused looking for love in New York City.   And now here I am sailing on 38ft catamaran around the Marquesas Isles of French Polynesia.

I guess you can say I have a hard time focusing.  Actually that's mostly why I decided to make this particular voyage.  There's not a lot of distractions around the most isolated islands in the world.  (That's not to say they can't be found, after all I've been on this boat nearly 3 months now and this is the first time I've bothered to sit down and write anything) The chances of finding internet in one of these island's sheltered bays is slim and if you do find something, you can be fairly confident you wont be streaming netflix. It took nearly an hour just to view my best friend's 15 second baby video on facebook.

Despite these little frustrations I think I've discovered my niche.  No longer am I up till 4 in the morning playing videos games, nor staying in bed till 5 in the evening reading reddit.  Instead I'm up at 6am every morning running 8k or circuit training or learning jujitsu or muy tai. Every day I'm hiking up to pristine tropical waterfalls or stunning island vistas or else snorkeling with manta rays or spear fishing with sharks or learning how to keep and maintain a boat with my new friend and mentor, Daniel, who is also training me to free-dive (I broke 2 minutes underwater yesterday and reached a depth of 25.6 meters despite not being able to hold my breath for 20 seconds when I first began crewing aboard Baydreamer) and teaching me to sail.

I've honestly never lived better, and honestly I'm a bit anxious about what will happen when I return home next week.  But I'm fairly certain for now that life at sea is the life for me

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I'm in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico looking at real estate listings for place to start a hostel.

How did I get here?

Well, I rode my bicycle.

That's not really what I was getting at, but its a cool answer so I'll allow it.

I really wanted to make a post on Mayan Families.  A reflection on everything I did and learned, the people and the places and what I ultimately came away with, but I never got around to it.  I haven't gotten around to lot of things.  The only thing I seem to have gotten around to is Puerto Escondido, that was more of a last minute impulse than a conscious objective.

I'm torn between looking back and moving forward.  It took nearly 4 weeks and 1000km in the saddle to get me far enough out of this funk to begin putting words to a page again and all the willpower I can muster to refrain from my tired refrain about how disappointed I am in myself.

Mayan Families is great.  A bunch of great people doing a really great thing. Helping those in need. I couldn't really get engaged. Completely my problem.Too self-involved and anxious. Trying too hard at the wrong things, not trying hard enough with the important ones. Story of my life?  Don't go there.

Parents Visited. Sharayah visited. Several flings. Made a best friend and promptly dumped him without a word because he was stealing from me. Story of my life?

Did 0 writing, little to no photography/video, spiritual growth? unaccounted for.

Won at least 34 arguments on reddit. Lost 7.  total time averaged at least 8 hours/day.  That's a full-time job.  Conquered the world 8 times in Civ 5. Twice on "King" difficulty.  Finished all 5 books of a Song of Ice and Fire. Watched first two season of 'Girls'  Watched 4 more episodes of Vikings than any decent person should ever have to suffer.

Went through 3 more phones, 1 wireless card, 2 external harddrives, 3 towels, 5 v-neck t's, 1 beloved hoody, 2 bungee-chords, 2 bike tires and 4 tire tubes, innumerable flash disks, 4 bottles of sunscreen, 2 bottles of aloevera, 38 liters of gatorade, 174 liters of water, 20 liters of coca-cola, 16 liters of Fresca, 65 lbs of beans, 59 lbs of eggs, 102 lbs of tortillas, 60lbs of unidentified meat, 3.5 lbs of chewed finger-nails.

87 items checked off a list.  1,627 stale resolutions.

27 friends added to facebook. 2 still in contact.

Monday, February 10, 2014


This morning I had a good friend graciously point out that in my last post I am being a whiny bitch, that this a public blog anyone can read so I shouldn't be talking shit or complaining about how my remarkably fortunate lifestyle isn't quite total nirvana.

Of course she's right.  And I apologize to the other 3 people reading this blog.  My life is unequivocally better than 99.999% of the world.  It's really unfair just how good I have it.

Writing for me is cathartic, a kind of therapy, but I'm not sure its really intelligent to post my therapy sessions on the internet.  Especially when I want to talk about people who may or may not end up reading this eventually.  I have to figure out the best way to navigate these kinds of issues. A private journal maybe. Meh, fuck it.

I'm 2 doses into my anti-depressants and I can feel the re-calibration occurring in my head.  My appetite is completely shot, I feel a bit queasy and really really spacey, like I haven't slept in days (Even I slept over 12 hours last night).  I keep catching myself staring into space for indeterminable amounts of time or forgetting why I'm in a room or not being able to find the right word thingy that I need for my sentences.  I hate it.  But not really, because I can't find an emotion strong enough to be called 'hate'.  My head feels like I have a minor hang-over but I don't feel any anxiety, I kinda just don't care. About anything.  I don't know, its kind of nice.  I feel like this must be what being stupid must feel like.

Did anyone just read that last sentence?  4 different words twice used in a 12 word sentence.  I can't even tell if it makes sense.  Am I going to be ok publishing this trash?  I don't know, I'll guess I'll give it a few more days

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Whining for no reason

It's been a bad week.  Or maybe I'm just in a bad mood.  God the band that just started playing at this goddamned bar is fucking terrible.  I wish I had realized they were playing before I ordered my food.  The belligerent 60 year-old expat groupies they've attracted are even louder, but only slighter more on key.. and Terry has just pointed out that we're sitting in the middle a of a fucking memorial service. I'm an asshole sitting here with a scowl on my face in the middle of a bunch of people come to celebrate a deceased life.

Apparently I saw Terry last night, but I have almost no recollection of the occasion. This weekend I rented a lake house with Hugo and some of his friends from the city. We got all drunk and apparently came into town to dance at the one night club in Pana, and then returned home when everything closed at like 1. What bewilders me though is that my memory seems to have returned as were headed back to the house. I had been hitting it off with a couple of the girls, but when the time came to make a move I received an unexplained rebuff. I assume I must have somehow been an ass but I'm usually fairly perceptive about those things and she had been all over me before I suggested we take a walk down to the lake.

The rejection was still fresh in my mind when I woke up this morning, but the confusion had evolved into an anger. I still have absolutely no rational to justify the emotion, but it was there. I wanted to understand. I couldn't. In my mind I moved on. Rejection happens. Often. There are millions of possible reasons for it and its rarely something worth dwelling upon. But even though I stopped thinking about it, the feeling persisted. Although now I was just angry at myself and the way I've been living my life and the anger became a kind of hardened resolve. This brings me back to my bad week.

My work at Mayan families has been largely unsatisfying and this week has been exemplary so. I dislike going. I rarely show up on time. I get very little work done. I feel guilty about this and it makes me anxious about what the people there must think about me. I am not connecting well with most of the staff, and though I can't say I've put forth a tremendous amount of effort into building relationships there seem to be invisible barriers that I don't know how to get around.  Maybe its just my aforementioned guilt from being a shitty worker, but I can't help feeling there's something intrinsically broken inside of me preventing me from relating with anyone on a meaningful level. I'm closest with Jessica and Hugo. But my relationship with Jessica feels a bit awkward because I think she wants more from the relationship than I do, and I can't shake the feeling that Hugo and I wouldn't hang-out so much if I wasn't so generous in paying for everything.

Everyday after work I feel inexplicably stressed and my primary conduit for relieving myself, this week especially, revolves around browsing Reddit and playing computer games (namely civilization 4) which keeps me up all hours of the night causing me to sleep in and start the whole damn stress cycle all over again. The things that I really want to be doing with my life, Meditation/Yoga, exercise, studying Spanish, meeting/hanging out with people, and most importantly working on my photography and writing projects; never happen. Or only very rarely.

Last night I started Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. The first few chapters made me want to buckle down and spend 8+ hours a day writing.

That brings me back to my mood. I'm still under its “fuck-this-shit” influence (though its been softened a bit by the last few cuba libres) and I still don't really understand it. It's like something in me has snapped. On the one hand its nice because I don't feel anxiety or apathy or even like I'm overwhelmed, my usual psychological companions.  I posses a nearly tangible disdain for my usual forms of procrastination and idleness. I feel no temptation whatever to surf reddit or play games.  I can't remember the last time I was so ready to get shit done. On the other hand, I hate everything and everybody. I have zero patience for anything and don't want to see or talk to anyone.

Other things on my mind: Two completely seperate people who were supposed to come out and visit me canceled this weekend. I'm not totally surprised as they are both pretty flaky people in general who are always over committing (kinda like me) and I guess I should feel relieved that my next few months aren't gong to be nearly as packed now, but the timing of it, I don't know, I guess my ego is kind of tender and I'm having a hard time not taking it personally. Also not my best week financially. It's not something I should ever worry about, but it doesn't help.


I just woke from a nap and and feelings have evolved from anger to depression.  I have 3 days left working at Mayan Families and I feel like a failure.  I feel like I've failed to achieve what I wanted with my time here.  I feel like I've failed at relationship, both in building new ones here and sustaining those from my past. I feel alone and I feel doomed to a cycle of failure and isolation no matter how how well I education myself or how hard I fight against. As soon as I finish my time at Mayan Families, my parents will be here. I'm pretty sure I was excited about this before, but now I dread it. I feel miserable and I feel guilty for feeling miserable. I'm obviously in a shit mood. Last week anything was possible. Today, who gives a shit?

I actually picked up and read the stupid self-help book my mother packed into my DHL package, Change Your Brain Change Your Life. The whole thing is basically a promotion for insanely expensive SPECT brain scans (photon emission computed topography). According to Daniel G Amen, I likely suffer from an overactive deep limbic system. Coincidentally this is also often considered one of the main factors of PMS.  That sounds about right. The solution?  Anti-depressants, positive thinking, and maybe a little exercise.  That's some cutting edge shit right there.  The fucker wants to charge you $3200 to scan your brain just to confirm what you probably already know, "You have some slightly irregular brain chemistry". I want sue his ass for duping my mother into buying this stupid 330 page infomercial. 

Anyway, my dad is going to be here in 3 days.  I'm starting my antidepressants now.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Last night and some other stuff

Yesterday after work I picked up my laundry from Casa Pastel Zanahoria and headed to straight to Jessica's for yoga.  Coming off 4 consecutive nights of hard partying and a short excursion to Guatemala City, it required a concentrated effort to follow through on the day's commitments rather than go home and lock myself up in my room.  It was around 8:30 when I finally plopped myself on the sofa in my living room.  The yoga had done its work and my usual anxiety had given way to a contemplative melancholy that I thought conducive for a bit of thought plucking and sentence mashing.

I certainly had no shortage of events to report.  On Saturday my DHL package finally arrived, after more than a week of running to offices and making bank deposits for taxes and haggling with customer service agents in pigeon Spanish. It's arrival concluded a two-month-long struggle to re-equip myself with some impossible-to-find necessities.  My Rainbows, the defacto footwear of my last few years, heartlessly stolen during a beach party in Tulum, have finally been replaced.  My wardrobe, steadily diminished and tattered after months of traveling has been replenish and now includes stylish, nicely fitting, climate-appropriate attire (which if you're a tall skinny guy is hard enough to achieve living back in the States). Finally I got a new 24mm macro lense for my dSRL and both my cameras now have battery chargers again.  (Pro-tip for traveling photographers: if you're going to spend a long time on the road, don't buy a fucking Pentax.  Get a leading brand Cannon or Nikkon or something who's accessories can be found in any big city.  Same thing goes for cell-phones and bicycles).

I'd also been making a lot of friends, most of whom I can't seem to remember.  Sunday night at Alex's superbowl party I introduced myself to girl who complained that it was the 4th time I had done so.  My anti-anxiety medication wreaks havoc on my memory, especially when mixed with alcohol.  It's certainly been effective though.  Last week I awoke to a text from an unknown number asking where I was.  Apparently I had committed myself to 6 am yoga lessons. It was the best decision of my life (after I adjusted the time-frame of course).  And on Friday I came into work to learn that the night before I'd agreed to go to Guatemala city on Saturday with Hugo, the new Architect at Mayan Families, for a friend's birthday party.  It ended up being a lot of fun and I now consider Hugo one of my best friends down here. Hugo is one of those guys who has a lot of good friends.

Unfortunately, with my memory, apparently, goes my capacity to tell the truth. I really need to learn how to harness my inadequacy issues because the tales I hear people tell me I've been telling them are tall enough to get me a some kind of publishing deal, at least a few magazine pieces.  On Saturday as I was leaving the house to head to Guate, I found a small troupe of backpackers at my gate.  They wanted to check out one of the apartments I had to rent because I was a real-estate tycoon who owned land all over Latin America and was also somehow a US fugitive separated from my family by the long and quite complex arm of the law.

But the heaviest issue on my mind last night wasn't my present life at all, but my past one, which is shaping up to be my future one..  In the last month or so, prompted by some mix of loneliness, nostalgia and just general relational etiquette; I've suggested to various friends and family that they should come out and visit me for a short part of my trip.  And to my astonishment, they've said yes.  Like, all of them. And they're all coming at once, back-to-back. Starting next Thursday, when my dad arrives, through the end of March and into April I will be accompanied by some person from my increasingly-distant past.  Of course I'm looking forward to spending time with all of them, but I'm also still a bit.. shocked?  The least predictable visits were confirmed just this weekend. My plans, if you can call whatever vague notions I let jostle about in my mind 'plans', are being confounded by the oddest little plot loops. A somewhat tangential example: At lunch the other day I saw a girl who looked familiar, turns out we had been staying at the same hostel in San Cristobal.  We had shared in some fun times, but never actually exchanged names.  She is now living in San Marcos just a 10 minute boat-ride away and we've become Facebook friends and made loose travel plans.

Anyway, all of these things and many more are begging to be processed (or at least properly repressed) last night as I bring out my laptop.  And then something happened that changed the entire course of my night: I discovered that I had left my charger at work; leaving my 15" beast of a machine with less than 30 minutes of operating time.

Since I lost my phone (again!) my laptop has become my main source of, well, everything. The cheap Guatemalan go-phone I got as a replacement is worthless for pretty much everything except tethering my laptop and listening to audiobooks on my lunch break. Now I had 4 hours of night to fill without a computer. No Reddit, no movies, and certainly no writing.  I mean, yeah, I might have a notebook and a pen lying around somewhere, but those are mostly decorative or for remembering things or making lists in the event of a dead battery. But actually writing something substantial? With a pen? Aint nobody got time for that.  Plus how would I know when I misspelled something?

I decided to walk downtown and eat out for dinner to give myself some time to process this devastating development. It seemed I couldn't even remember ever being simultaneously without either a computer or a smartphone and I was woefully unprepared.  I got dressed up in my new clothes and did my hair nice and sharp, partly to waste a little time and partly to insure, via Murphy's law, that I would not come across anyone I'd care to impress.

I set out for Calle Santander and double checked my phone to re-evaluate my audiobook options.  There were still just two.  The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak and The Pearl by John Steinbeck.  I was already in the middle of The Book Thief, and although its a decent read I wasn't really in the mood to follow the misfortunes of a poor little book-obsessed orphan girl growing up in Germany during WWII. Besides it was my designated lunch-time book, and if I let myself read it during dinner, what would the world come to?  That left me with The Pearl.  My only real objection was that I had just finished East of Eden, and as much as I loved it, I wasn't sure if I was up for back-to-back Steinbeck.  I generally don't like to read the same author back to back.  It's like eating at the same restaurant for lunch and dinner.

I reluctantly put on The Pearl, but after a few minutes I stopped in at a Libereria and bought a pen and a notepad, just in case.

Everyplace was empty, even Palapa's, so I decided to try the place next door that was always open late.  I ordered the Platico Typico hoping to be surprised, but expecting a few pieces of shitty meat with plantains, beans and tortillas.  I was not surprised. I chewed what I could, scribbled a few words in my new stationary and got the check.  

On my way home I tried The Pearl again, but I knew it wasn't going to stave off the unrelenting ennui that awaited me inside my bare apartment. I frantically tried to figure out a way to rig my laptop back to life, but it was hopeless.  What could I do?  You can't take photos at night and you can't write without a laptop, except like a dream journal..  and that's when the idea occurred to me.

I had been wanting to do Ketamine again for a while now.  Mostly to benefit from its powerful long-term antidepressant after-effect, but also because I really enjoy the trip.  It's like being lulled into a lucid dream.  You can go anywhere and do anything and all your thoughts are dream thoughts which makes them mysteriously precious and worth writing down.  The whole thing usually lasts a little less than two hours which was just about perfect.

I initially thought I'd just do some K and then start writing, but as I was about to take the first bump I knew that I wanted a thought guide and I figured Steinbeck was as good as any. 

The particular work that I was listening to was narrated by Frank Muller, who coincidentally also narrated Hemingway's Old Man and The Sea which I had just listened to last year.  It wasn't until I was winding down the K-hole that I become conscious of the narrator's voice.  The Pearl and The Old Man and the Sea share a number of similarities.  They are both short. They are both written by famous 19th century American authors.  They are both set in Latin American fishing villages. They both follow poor fisherman who both struggle to manage a fantastic catch.  They are both written in a remarkably similar style, with the omniscient author reading aloud the thoughts of his characters (perhaps this particular similarity is made more remarkable read by the same voice, which is being listened to by a mind high on Ketamine). And neither have a happy ending.

What I will say about The Pearl is that it is far more eventful than The Old Man and the Sea (which admittedly isn't saying much.)  On Ketamine, I wasn't listening to the story, I was living it.  I was Kino and at times I was even his wife.  Steinbeck has a way of making his readers understand the inner workings of his characters, and although I was trying to understand it, so that I could master it, it mastered me.  After my second bump, my whole life started falling apart.  And all because of this pearl, this fatal stroke of luck that gave me a glimpse of what might be, what I thought would be my ticket into a new world of wealth and freedom became the bane of my existence, the most horrible curse.  The ring of power was a ring of darkness.  And everything happened so fast.  Like Kino, I was confused and uncertain and shocked and obsessed, my eyes couldn't pierce the darkness any better than his, but I could feel it as well as he, if not more.  But I wasn't afraid.  I had faith in Steinbeck.  Steinbeck was fair and decent and although he couldn't make Kino's life fair and decent, he would give me something to hope for and I would do the best that I could because I knew there must be something about Kino that made him worth writing about. Kino was a man, and that's all I wanted to be.

But when it was over there was no glory in being a man and since the story was finished there was nothing left to hope for.  So I lied alone underneath the stars and watched the visions of my inner mind take strange forms before me until the drug began to wear off and I listened to the story again and though I was not so confused the second time through, and less impressed, I realized with some wonder that I had not missed anything. There was nothing to be gained from the second listening except the confirmation that I had indeed heard it all.

And then I glanced over my notebook.  10-12 pages of sideways handwriting trying to capture the feelings as they were being felt and the ideas as they were being realized and quotes that had struck me as significant. 

"Go with God" (but only when you don't know the way)

"Senses dulled by emotion" Steinbeck sings to keep the evil out.

"I am a man. A man can be killed."

And then I knew Steinbeck, but Steinbeck just wanted to say 'hi'

and this little gem:  I will be a great writer because I have an enormous ego with a million opinions that everyone wants to hear.

And that was my Monday night

Friday, January 24, 2014


The other night I was meditating to make sense of my life.  I'm always trying to make sense of my life (sometimes I feel like that's all I ever do with it) but this time I went at it a little differently.  I decided that since I'm always asking myself the same questions, over and over, it must mean two things:  Firstly, I must have the answer, somewhere; otherwise why would I be bothering myself with these questions?  Secondly, I must really suck at listening to myself.

So with that in mind, I shut up and started listening to what I had to say on the matter of life, the universe, and everything; well at least as far as I had anything to do with it.  Blah blah blah, anybody who's ever read a page from any book in the self-improvement/spirituality section knows where this is heading so I'll cut it short.

After a whole lot of silence I was galloping in first-person, on horseback at good pace.  Not a full-out sprint, but fast enough to where I had to keep my eyes trained a good distance in the future and most of my concentration was concerned with keeping clear of trees etc.. and staying on the horse.  For some reason, this made a lot of sense to me and I knew it was an allegory for my life, but before I really started picking it apart another image appeared.

A yellow road sign, diamond shaped like the ones that caution drivers of bumps or turns or crossings, but on it, perfectly profiled and silhouetted in the universal style of caution-sign language, was a child swinging  forward on a swing. The child figure was near the top of the arc in the swing and the top of the swing was not shown, just the seat with the rope slanting backward and off the top of the sign.

The vision of riding the horse was affirming.  It gave the scattered, hectic nature of my life a kind of romantic air.  Sure, I'm disorganized and often feel rootless, unsettled, and unable to maintain a grasp on anything I'd consider 'solid', but I'm living at a faster pace than the rest of the world, and a natural consequence of squeezing my given time with so much life is that I miss (and miss out on) certain things.  Both the big picture and the small stuff suffer the cruel whip of my ambition which continually drives me on.  But it's a sacrifice that I can reconcile because there's a great big world out there, and I'll never get to see it all if I start letting myself get caught up in particular moments or I start worrying about who's going to be with me at the end..

And I felt like there was some insight to be gleaned from the fact that I was riding a horse and not driving a car or a bike or some other machine.  Something about being bound to a force that wasn't really completely under my control, something that required more of a relationship than a steering wheel, something with a rhythm that was more felt than mechanically timed. Less predictable, but more trustworthy. Something that would allow me to close my eyes at times and I could trust it to make basic decisions for me, but perhaps required more care and oversight at other times.  It made me feel like I don't need to completely understand the underlying physics of everything so much as I need know which way to lean and when to shift my weight.  I'm not working with gears and shafts or chains and pistons, I'm in a symbiotic relationship with a living being and what I lose in absolute control I gain in a second soul to watch out for me.

However the caution sign was unsettling.  The first thing I felt when I saw it was that I wish I could draw/paint so that I might re-create it.  It was so vivid and struck me as being hauntingly poignant for traffic sign (or just because it was a traffic sign?), but the meaning was cryptic and certainly twofold.  Firstly, it was a caution sign, and it reminded me that one of trade-offs to the pace of my life is that its fucking dangerous.  If you stumble while taking a stroll you might skin a knee, but lose your balance at full gallop and you could break your neck.

But within that uncomfortable reminder was a child on a swing. On the one hand it summoned the likeness of one of those stupid "Children at Play" warnings that feature two children on a teeter-totter: who the fuck is putting playground equipment in the street!?  But this is something different, or something more.  For one thing, there is only a single child, and this being my vision, it has to be me.  And the swing definitely embodies the cyclical nature of life, its like a great pendulum of existence.  And its trying to warn me of something.  But what?

There's something hypnotizing about swings. Successfully operating one requires a person to completely submit to a natural, inescapable rhythm.  It's 'back', and then its 'forth'; and proportionally so.  A little bit of 'back' isn't going to give you a lot of 'forth' You can't change direction arbitrarily.  You can either perpetuate the motion, or resist it. Or you can dismount.  But this child was not dismounting, this child was swinging.  Momentum is everything, alternation inevitable.  The higher you go in one direction the farther you'll fly in the other.  There is nothing truer or more predictable than the motion of a swing. Swinging is like listening to the heartbeat of the universe. That's why pendulums are trusted with noting the sacred passage of time.

But you never actually get anywhere on a swing. It's like a kind of trap.  It gives you that sensation in your stomach like your flying (or falling) but no distance is covered nor any notable event taken place. Its an isolated experience with no significance outside of itself.  It's lovely, but its pointless and time-consuming.

I still cannot decide if I am being warned against swinging, or against not swinging enough.  It's a emblem of pure rhythm, and racing at my speed I need an excellent sense of rhythm to survive, but its also absorbingly distracting, which can be very dangerous.

Maybe its both. Maybe the doubt and indecision that arise when I consider this warning and situations like it are actually what I'm being warned against.  Maybe when I encounter an ambiguous caution sign its actually trying to let me know that I'm already over my head.  The time for consideration and thinking has passed and now is the time to act.  If I don't have a decision made, at least I have a partner to whom I can yield the reigns, and maybe that's the lesson I'm supposed to take out of all of this.  Maybe that's the answer to all my musing:

Dude, just trust the fucking horse.

I don't know, it sounds a bit derivative and underdeveloped, but its 2am and the horse needs some rest.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Life-to-date post

The other day I was hanging out with this guy from New York named Ben, who was cool enough to add on Facebook, and he subsequently mentioned reading my blog, which freaked me out because I forgot that it was linked on my Facebook page, but then I realized obviously I needed to read his and having just finished doing so I'm all pissed off because his blog is better than mine (No, I'm not going to link it, you don't know him).

It doesn't help that my post rate has dropped to twice/month or that I haven't been posting any photos (mostly because my I lost the charger for BOTH of my cameras)

Since my last post I traveled to Lanquin, Guatemala with 3 of the girls from Mayan Families where I've been volunteering, Amy, Hannah, and Helene.  I'm really bummed I didn't have my camera because it's one of the most beautiful places I've seen so far on my trip. I may return when my dad comes out to visit in February.

We stayed at El Retiro lodge for 3 days. On Christmas day I decided to drop acid because we didn't have any plans for the day and it was so beautiful.  I didn't handle it particularly well and made a less that ideal first impression with my future volunteer colleagues (Did I mention Helene's family was visiting from Australia?) Coincidentally, that's also when I first met Ben. On the plus side I have two full, typed pages of LSD stream-of-conscious that I may eventually be able to work into something interesting.

20 minutes into the bus trek back to Antigua, I realized that I didn't have my phone with me.  I stopped the driver grabbed my bag and started walking back to the hostel hoping to find it back there. I did.  I then hopped on what I thought was another bus to Antigua.  It wasn't.  There was a bus switch in Coban, somehow I got back on my original bus which for some reason had been kept waiting for me. I still don't understand how the shuttle system works in Guatemala but I certainly know what it feels like to be the least popular person on a bus.

 In Antigua we met up with Mike from Canada who we had all met back at Puerta Viaje Hostel in San Cristobal, Mexico.  I tried cocaine for the first time ever. Apparently its cheaper than weed down here although, according to Mike, its not as good as the stuff in Honduras.  The night ended with me and some crazy-haired girl from Mexico in the back of a Guatemalan Police vehicle.  Relax. they were just giving us a ride.  Apparently that's normal here.

The next day Amy, Hannah, and Helene left for Honduras and I stayed and took some pictures that I'll post in like 3 months.  I ended up hanging out with 3 young woman from the States who were also staying at our hostel in Antigua. They were all college buddies from New York and must have been a few years younger than me.  Turns out one of them works at Tesla, one works for the Federal Reserve and the other works for a private equity company that she was reluctant to name.  We talked about Bitcoin all morning. Crazy fucking world.

Then I came back to Panajachel to celebrate New Years and get settled before Mayan Families started up again on the 6th.  I didn't do either. The only girl who's number I had in the friend-group I was going to hangout with on New Years said she was sick and I was feeling depressed so I stayed in and played computer games, for like 3 days straight. I told everyone that I did go out and just didn't see them, but I doubt they believe me because this town is really small and there's only one bar that people attend regularly.
Apparently I did go out one night and I had everybody back at my place for a house party and everybody says it was a good time but I blacked out and can´t remember any of it.

Work at Mayan Families has been good, but I´m insecure about how much work I do.  Mostly I help Helene, the communications director, running errands, she´s crazy busy all the time.  Sometimes she gives me bigger projects, like re-doing the youtube channel or something.  Then I feel over my head and I spend a bunch of time trying to figure out exactly what a perfect youtube channel looks like what obstacles we´re looking at and I have to reddit a little bit to relieve some of the pressure and hope to God that Helene´s expectations of me aren´t half as high as the expectations I put on myself.

This last weekend Ben was in Panajachel and visited. I hung out with him Saturday. We went to the Atilan Nature Reserve. I took a lot of photos of butterflies that I´ll post in a few months.  We all went out and got drunk and I dropped my phone off a dock into Lake Atilan.  Yes.  The phone for which I became a bus-pariah not two weeks ago.  The phone that I had shipped to Mexico and had to pay a 30% import tax on. 20 meters under.  I didn´t even realize it until I had got back to my place.

Maybe I went to the Nature Reserve on Sunday? Yea, I did. I don´t remember what happened Saturday before I lost my phone.

On Monday I didn´t have a desk because Steve is back in town.  He is another volunteer that has been with Mayan Families for a few months.  He does something with Excel or databases or programming or something.  Helene sent me out to take photos with a bunch of volunteer nurses. I forgot to put a damned SD card in my camera but one of the interpreters let me use his.  I actually put those photos up on Facebook already because that´s kind of my job.  Although I didn´t go in to work to day. Because I wasn´t feeling well. I won´t go into details.  I mostly had to come to terms with losing my phone. That and reconcile the amorphous blob that is my life.

Well, I did get a new phone.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Today I moved in to my new apartment in Panajachel, Guatemala.  $200/month for a furnished two-story-1-bed-two-bath with a garden on the river.  Apparently it's high season in this lake-side tourist town so I'm paying 30% more than normal.  I've found it difficult to pay more than $4 dollars for a meal here.  If I didn't feel the need to eat 6,000 calories/day I doubt I'd ever spend more than $2.

I have mixed feelings about settling down, even if its just for a few months.  There's something about stopping that makes me feel like I'm falling behind.  Or, more honestly, like my inadequacies are catching up to me.  When you don't spend more than a few days around the same people, its not difficult to project a flattering image of yourself. "Yea, I'm cycling my way through Latin America, stopping only to volunteer and help the poor, no big deal."  But when you're spending weeks with people who are the real-deal and have been at it their entire lives, it becomes a lot harder to hide the fact that you're a selfish, incompetent prick.

Overall though, I'm glad I'm here.  It's challenging and I need that now more than ever. I want to be a better person, even if deep down its only because better people attract better people and being around better people makes me want to be better so I can attract more of them so that I can be like them so that I can be with them so that I don't ever have to sit alone with myself and ponder the terrifyingly cyclical nature of existence like this anymore...

Ok I'm back after a quick trip to the r/depression sub of reddit.  Why can't I get through a single blog post without things getting dark?  I'm learning to love the fight. The never-ending struggle that is existence.  I just have to convince myself that there is a difference between learning and deceiving oneself.

My new house has a lot of bugs.  I am watching a centipede cross the line of ants that have already formed to harvest the carcass of the spider that I squished when I sat down to write this post.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

This morning I woke up to the sound of rain on corrugated fiberglass.  It was loud and I was tired so I let myself sleep in because "no fucking way I'm riding in that".  It was a foolish lapse of discipline seeing as how I still had a solid hour of packing ahead of me.  It was a little after 9 when the rain let up but I wasn't riding till 11:30.  By this time I was hungry so I tried to find a quick bite before leaving San Ignacio.  Everything was closed. Fucking Sundays in Belize.  I don't remember having this problem in Mexico.  Do Catholics just not take Sundays off?   Just as I was thinking "There's got to be a place where everyone goes to eat after church" I came upon exactly such a institution called "Hodes Place" with a giant covered back patio and I got my order in minutes before the church crowd packed it.

I always get strange looks from the server when I order multiple entrees.  It makes me a little uncomfortable, surrounded by poverty and eating food for 2 or 3 people.  Dammit, I'm hungry. And fuck me if I don't use it all.  According to my bike computer I burn nearly 5,000 calories/day.  Today I did 6,000.  Whatever.

Regardless, I need to stop being so anti-social.  I've started listening to my audiobooks during meals now too. So much more interesting than most of the people I run into.  But even with the interesting people I struggle to stay engaged.  I'm listen to Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker Guide series.  Finished the first book yesterday and now on the second.  I actually don't like it that much.  There are some great parts, but most of it feels like the humor of a different era. Like something maybe I would have appreciated at the time, but now it feels obvious and unoriginal.  I felt the same way watching the Usual Suspects a few years ago.  Anyway, I have this terrible thing I do where I can't just stop reading a book once I start it, no matter how terrible it is so I didn't switch to something else.  I guess its alright because I needed some thinking time today and with a book I'm not that into I don't feel obligated to skip back for parts when I daze off.

Took me a little under an hour to get to the border, 15km from San Ignacio.   They wouldn't let me take my bike inside while going through immigration which really bothered me.  There was plenty of room for it inside where I could keep an eye on it.  I'm in super-paranoid mode at borders.  No two borders ever work the same way except that they are filled with sketchy looking people who are way too eager to help you navigate the completely unmarked process.  I paid an exit fee and then went to immigration and got stamped out.  As I was riding through the border into Guatemala somebody yelled at me about getting my passport checked again.  They weren't wearing any official clothes and since I had my tout shields up at 100% I immediately ignored them and continued through the open gate and into Guatemala smiling at the guard who had no qualms letting me through.  It later occurred to me that both desks I checked with were on the Belize side and only one had stamped my passport.  Checking my passport tonight confirmed that I do not a Guatemala entry stamp and am apparently in the country illegally.  Not really sure how I'm going to deal with that yet, but I know where to go if I ever become a fugitive.

It was 2:20 by the time I started out in Guatemala.  I knew it would be impossible to make it the rest of the 120km to Flores, or anyplace near the lake, before dark (two hours away) but I was eager to get away from the border and didn't feel like trying to find a ride.  I started riding and told myself if worse came to worse I could finally break out the tent and sleeping bag that had thus far been dead weight on my front rack.

 An hour and a half later I began worrying. Definitely not going to reach any hotels soon. Camping is not going to be fun.  For one thing, its been raining and everything is wet.  The river along which the road has been winding is flooded and everything below the road is a swamp.  Everything above it is a steep hill and generally someone's property.  I am not mentally prepared to ask someone if I can pitch a tent in their yard like I have been reading about on other cyclists blogs.  I pulled up to a road-side bar to practice a little chit-chat and see what I could muster.  Nobody could understand me.  I couldn't understand them.  Goddamned regional dialects.  I ordered a beer and finally was able to communicate that I was looking for a place to stay.  An older guy mentioned something about a school.  Finished my beer in silence as I could not for the life of me think of how to conduct small chat in Spanish and nobody feigned any interest whatever in talking to me anyway.  The school was not a viable camping option.

I came across a small soccer field seemingly in the middle of nowhere that looked promising. But as I slowed to investigate I noticed a tiny hand-painted sign mentioning something about the military. I was thinking it was odd when a whistle drew my attention to two camo-adorned men smiling down from the hillside above me.  A harder look revealed little cabins in the trees and a clothes line covered in camouflage pants and jackets.  Around the bend I was informed by a large sign that this was in fact an army barracks of some kind.  I rode on.

 I came to a long steep 22% grade and eventually decided I'd make better time walking.  It was becoming painfully clear that I needed to either setup camp or flag down a ride the rest of the way into town.  I wasn't prepared to do either. My confidence in my communication/social skills was too low to dare flagging anyone down and I there's was no place that stuck out to me as a viable camping option.  The cognitive dissonance left me with only one option:  continue on into the darkness and hope for the best.

I swear I'm the luckiest person I've ever met.  Not 30 minutes before sunset, with rain drops beginning to fall, 3 Guatemalans in a tiny pick-up pulled and asked me if I wanted I ride into Flores.  I spent the next half hour wedged between my 75kg bike and a ladder developing a mild case of white knuckles.  My bike computer says we were only going 110kph, but with the little pebbles of water making visible welts on my skin I would've believed we were approaching mach speeds.  Buses and trucks were passed, dogs and potholes were swerved around, the road alternated between dirt and pavement, but the velocity never faltered.  It was thrilling to say the least. About halfway we picked up a young couple hitchhiking from Argentina who claimed to have been on the road for over 2 years.  I tried to talk to them but making audible sounds at near-mach speeds requires far too much concentration and we were all pretty focused on hanging on.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tomorrow I should cross into Guatemala. I don't expect problems.  Everyone says its a very easy border.

Last night I stayed up all night trying to get some audiobooks working on my phone.  I've listened to 5 books in the 13 days I've been in the saddle.  It's one of my favorite aspects of this mode of transportation.  I get shit occasionally from other cyclists who say its dangerous to ride with earphones.  I agree sheepishly and then continue listening.  It's worth the risk.

I'm excited about getting back to a Spanish speaking country.  I keep hesitating here in Belize, accidentally opening with Spanish greetings and sometimes even speaking English with a Spanish accent (what?).  I am more confident in my interactions when I can use my native language though.

I'm still debating whether or not I want to try catching a ride or just finish my ride and be late.  I'm due to be there tomorrow but I still have a good 7 days of riding ahead of me.  It's awkward to take a bus with a loaded bike as your carry-on.  I'm thinking I might try for a few hours every day till I get good and tired and the trying to hitch a ride with a passing pick-up or something.  I don't know, we'll see.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Yesterday I rode all day in rain. I stopped after 6 hours, 40km short of my 110km goal. The water turned my $100 Brooks saddle into a soggy leather flap. I was just getting the damned thing broke in, too. Today it was supposed to rain all day again so I decided to take a rest day. Spent the whole day watching the second half of the 4th season of Archer, the first few episodes of the 8th season of How I Met Your Mother (aka, Friends 2), and browsing reddit. Feels like a set-back. I love this hotel though. Saan Yum Hotel and Restaurant. Reasonably priced food and lodging with hot water and decent wifi, and the rooms are large enough for me to keep my bike inside and still have my stuff scattered all over the floor.  Fuck the Black Orchid resort though.  Fucking extortionists.  I need to post that scathing review.

I'm still concerned about my motivation issues. It's like a flu that never goes away and effects everything you do. I can get myself all worked up and excited for short bursts of productivity, but I can't seem to sustain anything long enough to work up a healthy habit.  It makes me anxious that I can't divine a clear solution.  Obviously I need to start small and work my way up.  Develop one habit at a time. but I can't decide which habit to start with, and these things take months to develop.  Whatever.

I told the NGO I'm supposed to be working that I'd be there by the 15th.  I haven't even made it to Guatemala yet, which apparently is when the real riding starts (steep hills?).  I'm thinking I'll ride to San Benito, Guatemala which should take 2 or 3 days at my current pace and then bus most of the rest of the way.  It's definitely a defeat, but I'm ready to start my new job and I will feel guilty if I postpone it any longer.  Anyway, I have the rest of my life to finish this round-the-world bike trip (at the pace I'm making, it will certainly take up most of it.)  I'm looking forward to interacting with people from a similar background again and maybe even getting to know some individuals.  Not looking forward to working. Not so much because I dislike work as much as I ashamedly inexperienced with it.  I can't remember the last time I did anything that would qualify as work.  I'm counting on my adolescent need to impress people to kick-start some kind of work-ethic.  I guess the worst that can happen is I get fired, right?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dec. 9th

I used to think I was good with directions before I started this trip. 

On my first day, it took me an hour to figure out how to get out of Merida. On my second day I took two wrong turns, but quickly perceived my errors when the pavement ended. One my third day I got up two hours before dawn so I could sneak onto the toll-road in defiance of several posted anti-bicycle signs undercover of dark via riding the wrong direction up the off ramp (a trick I picked up from poor Mexican drivers in Tijuana) all to enjoy a speed-bump-free-wide-shoulder expressway to Valladolid. After an hour and a half of paranoid cycling, I took the wrong “exit” (I actually hopped the guardrail and climbed up the overpass, no easy feat with a bicycle that weighs more than you do) and ended up adding about 10 kilometers to my trip. I also discovered that the highway “libre” I took so much pains to unsuccessfully avoid had very recently been repaved with beautifully smooth asphalt, not a single speed-bump, and a shoulder broad enough to be an additional car lane. And after spending an hour trying to find a place to eat in Valladolid (mind you, I've already spent 3 days in this town not a month prior), I glibly set out on a 37 kilometer dirt road that dead ended in the middle of the Yucatan jungle. Not only do I have a perfectly functional GPS and internet powered phone, I have people in the street waving me down and telling me I must being going the wrong direction because there's nothing that way. Yes, I am a navigational genius.

But that's just the third day. I'm not even going to get into the hours I spent at the Belize border were I nearly managed to re-enter Mexico twice or the several “scenic” routes I accidentally found myself on here in Belize where the signs are all hand-painted and rarely give you any of the information you're looking for and the people are either oblivious or derive some kind of strange pleasure from sending you off in the wrong direction.

I didn't much like my first day in Belize. The polluted bay on which sits the town of Corozal didn't strike my fancy after being in beautiful Caribbean paradises like Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun. The “Resort” I was so excited to have booked with bitcoin was dilapidated, bug infested, and had abysmal wifi access. You just wouldn't expect a place as cutting edge as to accept bitcoin would make their guests stand 20 yards outside their cabana to get a wifi signal. There was no lobby or even a place to sit down. I had to stand in the sand fending off the bugs that flocked to the light of my phone as I tried to make contact with the outside world. Fuckers even had the gall to give me a inflated bitcoin exchange rate that ended up over-charging me $15. Whatever.

The rest of Belize I have enjoyed very much. Everyone always talks about how expensive it is here so I was braced for the worst, but so far I've found it on par with Mexico, if not cheaper. Maybe its because I'm traveling inland toward Guatemala and most people visit the Caribbean Cayes. The diversity here is unlike anything I've ever seen. On every block there is a Chinese restaurant/general store with a creative name like "Chun Ma's Store and Fast Food (Chinese)" hand-painted on the wall. The town of Orange Walk is flooded with blond haired-blue eyed Mennonites speaking German and looking like they just came off the set of Little House on the Prairie. There are Hispanics from all the surrounding countries and of course African descendants who speak some kind of Cloud Atlas jib-jab that mixes English with a little Spanish and some kind of native language spoken with a kind Jamaican syncopation that feels all the more exotic when they completely drop it and address you in perfect Victorian English.

The flora and fauna are more diverse down here as well. Most of which I've observed as roadkill. Brightly colored birds and snakes and unidentifiable mammals. Of course, like Mexico, most of it is just dogs and cats and butterflies :( . Insects are everywhere. And they are huge. They have grasshoppers bigger than my feet.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Wheeling myself away from myself. (Dec. 8th)

So yea, it's been days. I'm not sure what to say. The addiction got me.

I spent a few weeks San Cristobal de las Casas and after a few days being sick and letting myself go I was back to spending 90% of my waking hours on Reddit and the other 10% running around doing minor errands and trying to be social. I quickly started hating myself and devised an escape plan that involved buying a bicycle and doing the rest of my traveling on that. Mostly I needed an excuse to exercise and get outside. I couldn't find a decent bike shop in San Cristobal so I decided to start in Merida because I have friends there and there was an eye clinic that could do LASIK surgery for like like $800 which I decided I should do to get the most out of my traveling experience (highly recommend doing it outside the US where the health care is better and cheaper).

I spent nearly a month in Merida doing pretty much nothing except internetting. It was horrible. My excuse is that the bikeshop I ordered my frame from could not get the frame by the time they said they would, eventually I went with a less ideal frame the shop already had in stock, but I should have made that decision much earlier, like 1.5 weeks earlier, and anyway I have no excuse for completely wasting my down time. I could have made/finished so many blog posts and edited/posted so many pictures/videos that I have stockpiled or I could have done a little traveling and actually used my time, but no, reddit reddit reddit. I still don't know what's wrong with me, but I simply could not find the motivation to become productive.

I've been in the saddle 10 days now and only now have mustered the courage/energy to start typing again. God I hate how horrible my writing has become. Reading it makes me cringe. Its so bland and thoughtless. It's like I don't give a shit what I say. Well I don't. I'm just trying to create a habit. Write write write.

When I was in San Cristobal I met some girls who work at an NGO in Guatemala. They were attractive so I drunkenly told them I would volunteer. All of the best decisions I've made in life have been intoxicated so now I'm headed to Panachel, Guatamala to work as a communications intern for Mayan Families. I don't really know what they do, but it sounds much different from anything I would be naturally inclined to do so I think it will be good. I can certainly affort some penance for all my recent indulgences.

The only thing is this bicycling thing is taking a lot longer than I planned. I was actually supposed to be there before I even left, such is the cohesion between my self-perceived potential and my actual output. That was partly a miscommunication, and partly me dragging my feet, but mostly just me not knowing what the hell I'm doing. I planned to be able to take on 150km/day everyday with maybe 1 or 2 single day breaks along the way. My average day is half that. So far my longest day has been 116k and I stopped for 3 full nights in Tulum. I have rode nearly 40km in the wrong direction and spent over 2 hours trying to get across 1 damned border. And I haven't even had any real issues to deal with yet.

Anyway, I'm exhausted and burnt to crisp and still have pack all my shit and sleep soon so I can get up and leave at 5am even though I have no idea where I'm going to stay tomorrow because this stupid fucking hotel that I paid .04272BTC for doesn't have working wifi and I couldn't get a Belize SIM card for my phone because the whole fucking country is closed on Sundays but I'm happy because I wrote this shitty fucking post and broke my dry streak :) It's going to be a great week.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I'm in San Cristóbal de las Casas.  I know, right? It's been days.  I was sick ( for 3 days and counting).  I get it, it doesn't count. I have a lot of pictures, they will be updated soon.  I have thousands of stories, they are all boring so don't worry about it.  Thinking about bicycling my way through Latin America (yes, I know I will have to ferry from Panama to Columbia).  Exercise, right?  Anyway, better posts in the future, no worries, a tad drunk, be grateful otherwise I'd probably never post

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Paulo patching up the radiator 
Today I scubaed the cenotes in Tulum. Dos Ojos. Paulo was my guide. $110 for two dives? Whatever.  I'm going to have to check my funds soon because I'm pretty sure I'm way over budget.  I think I fell in love with the Argentinian Girl that volunteers here. What is it with Argentinian girls working at hostels and being absolutely gorgeous? No I haven't talked to her yet. Chloe the red-head Australian girl has been traveling with me. She's cute, but dumb as a cinder block. She tried to tell me she had never heard of quesadillas before. She's been in Mexico for nearly a month now. I know they have Mexican food in Australia, my CELTA buddy Joel was from Australia and he fucking loved Mexican food. She asks a shit-ton of stupid questions. I don't know, I don't mind though. Doesn't seem like there's a lot that can get on my nerves recently. I had my phone jacked the other night. That bummed me out for a bit, and then proceeded to piss me off subsequently for the next 3 days every time I went for my phone and realized it was gone. But each time it was just passing frustration. I miss the military guys from Alaska who were biking through the American continents. God I want to do that so bad. That and sail around the world. Well, maybe not literally, but maybe. Right now I just want to sail through all the worlds tropical islands. I just need to learn how to sail. And fix a motorcycle. Or else find someone else with the skills I need.. I should ask Ben how he feels about sailing with me. Check. Goddamnit the English chick at the bar is so fucking hot. I'm afraid if I let myself really take a look at her my eyes will get stuck and her boyfriend will have to pry them away with the bill of his douchy trucker hat. No, but really he's cool. Fucking awesome red beard. She's way too fucking hot for him though. Fuck me, can I stop thinking about girls for 10 minutes? The answer is no. No I cannot.

Here's some raccoon and a couple of their odd little friends:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

1, 2, Buckle my Shoe

Trying to wrap my head around numbers. Bear with me for a second.

Everyone knows there are an infinite number of integers (1,2,3 etc...) There is no limit to to how high we can count. And between any two integers, not only does there exist another infinite amount of numbers (1.1, 1.01, 1.001), but it is actually a larger size of infinity ( Yes, that's right, and not only are there different sizes of infinity, but there are an infinite amount of sizes of infinity; the size of which is infinitely larger than them all.

Sometimes I wonder if our entire universe could be merely a single atom within another universe that we will never be able to fathom, and then I'm like, why the fuck would I ever want to think about that?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cancun and My Introduction to the Yucatan Peninsula.

So I left Rancho and flew out of the Tijuana airport into the Caribbean resort megaplex that is Cancun.  After a month of bucket baths and porta-potties I decided to splurge on myself and booked 3 nights at the all-inclusive Omni-Cancun (and spent about what I'd expect to pay at a Holiday Inn in California).

The experience was everything I'd hoped it'd be.  That is to say, it was boring as fuck.  It probably didn't help that we're in the middle of Hurricane Season here in the Yukatan so it was raining the whole time.  I honestly can't remember what I did for the first two days except spend a lot of time in the shower and sitting in my room on the internet with the AC on full blast.  I also managed to stuff my face with mediocre buffet food and drink way too little free alcohol (yes, too little.  I had like 4 drinks during my entire stay).  I even paid homage to the gym a few times in a vain attempt to prolong exercise trend I had started my last week at Rancho.

One thing that caught my eye was the iguanas roaming the  beach-lined terrace like stray cats.  Well, like really lazy and sluggish cats.  I mistook the first one I saw for an oddly placed sculpture.  I was staring at it trying to decide if I wanted to touch it when I overheard some passing guests talking about it "Still being there".  I didn't have the balls to actually touch it, but I snapped a few photos of a bigger one hanging out in the bushes when I was checking out of the hotel.
He's daring me to touch him

The second night of my stay at Omni I opted to get a test for Cancun's infamous club scene.  I had declined a drunken invitation from the night prior because the $50 entrance fee seemed rather steep and I'm honestly just not the spontaneous kind of person who decides to go clubbing given a 10 minute notice.  However after doing some research I learned that the hotel arranges the transportation to the club, lends you an activity coordinator (party guide) to show you the ropes and the $50 fee includes an all-you-can drink open bar.

The particular night I was going was Señor Frogs Glow Party.  Having no clue what I was getting into, I donned the single snazzy outfit I had packed.  The second we walked into the club we were covered in neon paint.  By the end of the night I was swimming in what I later learned was the fucking lagoon.

There was only one other guest from the hotel that came to the club (hurricane season I guess).  She was from Sacramento and confessed this was her 5th time in Cancun this year.  Apparently her parents had invested in the hotel and she was able to stay for free.  She was shooting me all kinds of signals, but she was a bigger chick and I was out to play my hand.

We were given a table (no chairs) near the dance floor on which was placed bottles and bottles of alcohol.  I swear if we drank it all someone would be going to the hospital.  I stuck to Vodka.  In fact I have drunk nothing except vodka since I arrived in Mexico.  I love Mexican food more than life, but I can't stomach tequila or shitty Mexican beer (interestingly, they don't drink Corona down here).

The night is pretty hazy, but I'll note some of the details I can remember.  There were lights everywhere, a dj on stage, a crowded dance floor, tables in the back for sitting, and a water slide that feel into the lagoon.  All in all it was hopping (or whatever the kids say these days). After getting myself well drunk,  I picked out a pair of girls sitting against the wall that appeared attractive but reasonably within my league.  They weren't with anyone and seemed to be looking for a reasonable excuse to join in the fun.  After probably an hour of creeping, I finally got drunk enough to make my move.

I walked up, gave one of them a painfully feigned aloof look and relinquished the clever remark I had been preparing all night.  I think it was something like "You're cute".   From the stares I received, I thought they hadn't heard me over the music, but then she gave a reply Spanish and I was so upset with myself for neglecting to factor language barrier into my calculations that I nearly suffered a nervous break-down on the spot.

I doubled down on the Vodka back at the table until I found myself sitting at another table with a group of
backpackers from a hostel in town and some dude from the hotel across the street from mine.  The next thing I remember I'm in the lagoon with an Israeli girl wrapped around me and we're macking on each other The Notebook style, which is a-whole-nother level of gross when you consider how disgusting that fucking lagoon must have been.

Hanging out at Ka Beh
Entrance to Ka Beh

The next day I checked out Ka Beh hostel where my new Isreali friend was staying and booked a night.  She wanted me to go with her to Tulum but I already had plans to meet some girls from Mérida in Playa del Carmen for Independence Day weekend.  The staff at Ka´Beh were really rad, kept giving us alcohol and tried to get us to go out and party more.  Most of them were actually travelers just working short-time until they had enough money to reach their next destination. Needless to say my last night at Omni-Cancun went unused.

Also, the food here is fucking fantastic.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My last days at Rancho (Finally)

I've been procrastinating for ages but I've finally become fed up with myself so prepare yourselves for a whirlwind of semi-coherent posts.

 Before I begin updating everyone on my most recent travels in the Mexican Yucatan, I want to finish up the documentation of my experience at Rancho. This particular post is taken from 3 or 4 posts that I started while at Rancho but never actually finished.  I've opted to focus on quantity and inclusion rather than quality and cohesion as the former requires more decisive action than I'm willing/able to contribute in a single night.

Two significant changes occurred in my final 2 weeks at Rancho.  First, Joelle left to wakeboard back home one last time before the end of summer; leaving me to take over her job running Rancho's fitness program. And second, the Ministry School began, which meant my curriculum proof-reading job finally ended (needless to say if you read my last post, I did not miss the work).

Although I was initially apprehensive about both transitions, the timing seems to have been overall very beneficial.  Although my till-now empty dorm room was now now packed to the brim (quite literally actually, we're talking 3-person bunk beds) full of young men who speak English even worse than I speak Spanish (but insist on trying to converse regardless) and the increasing temperatures combined with westward facing windows, no shades, fans or ac made the place a veritable fly-sauna (no joke, every morning we'd sweep out heaps of flies that had lived and died there the day before), Joelle's office at the gym afforded me ample opportunities for isolation and respite. Where before I would spend all my time outside of meals in my room, I now dared to enter it for the sole purpose of sleeping.
Angel Medina illegally
working on his chin-ups

I was supposed to be making the students pay $10 before they use the gym, but after I tried to explain the rules the first few times I decided I'd just let Joelle deal with it when she gets back. Truthfully the place is little room with some rusting weights a couple partially working pieces of equipment. It's really not worth paying $2, let alone $10.  Plus and I have to live with these guys and I don't want to be the dick that kicks them out of an empty gym, I don't really care how indignant the rest of the staff get.

I've actually had people come in and be like, "We don't think their supposed to be in here"  I just told them I had sent them to the office to pay their dues and assumed it was all taken care of, you know, since I don't speak Spanish.  They all got kicked out anyways.

Also I have to admit, I feel pretty bad for the bible students here.  I live like this for a month and I'm at my wit's end.  And I have internet access, connections with staff (which I'll get to later) who can take me off campus every once in a while, and an office in the gym with a fan where I can just sit and lock the door if I need to. These poor fuckers are stuck here with literally nothing to do all weekend except sing 'kum ba yah' or sit in their over-heated, fly-ridden dorm room all day.  I'm not exaggerating.  This place is hell incarnate if you don't have a way off campus or some-kind of staff privilege.  I try to tell myself that somehow its part of the training since they are preparing themselves to go into ministry where you're basically a slave until God decides to bless you with enough success to become your own leader; but the whole thing just makes me uneasy.  It's little wonder the supernatural plays such a crucial role in this whole system when people faced with realities like these as alternatives.  I really just don't want to think about it too much.  For the time being I've decided that if I don't have something more fulfilling to give people, why deprive them of their purpose?  People are drawn to Rancho for a reason, for most of them it's the best option.  I'm not willing to step up and offer something better so what good am I doing with my criticism?

Anyway, enough with feeling bummed out.  One of the perks of my new job is the all the windfall exercise I get.  I work out like 5 hours a day and I feel fucking amazing.  I wish I could take this job with me everywhere I go because I know I'm not going to have the discipline to exercise on my own while I'm on the road.

After Joelle left, everyone wants to be friends with me all of a sudden.  I'm not sure if they feel bad for me or they just didn't want Joelle to think they're moving in on her brother or maybe just didn't have any excuse to talk to me until I became their personal trainer.  Whatever the case, I am now feeling very much a part of the gang.

Miguel, meditating on the distance
that he embodies so well.
Today after church(Sept 7th?) Miguel befriended me out of the blue.  I'd met him my first day here when Joelle was trying to get him to build her a porch. He's the Mechanic/Handyman at Rancho and grew up here since he was a kid. I had an instant liking for him because like me he's just a little too cool for school (no really, I feel bad for him; kinda in a similar way to how I'm always feeling sorry for myself, if that makes any sense).  Also everyone insists on calling him 'Pato' ('duck' in Spanish) instead of 'Miguel'.  I guess the story is that when he was little he'd follow Jimmy (the head leader at Rancho) around campus like a duckling ('Patito'). Whatever the case I don't feel like the name really compliments him very well and I can relate to being called something other than a name you've chosen for yourself.  Miguel came out to the movies with us in Tijuana when I first got here. We watched Now You See Me with Spanish subtitles.  I don't know, it was kind of awkward some reason, ask Joelle. Since then Miguel and I had exchanged greetings in passing but never really entered into a conversation. Today I was sitting outside the church after service waiting for lunch because the dorm was too hot and crowded.  He sat down and just started talking. Asking me questions about myself and my travel plans and what not.  Honestly I was thrown off guard.  My friend Jaime, who has known him all her life, will attest that such behavior is slightly outside the scope of his usual aloof persona.   I kept waiting for some kind of point to be brought up or for some aim to be revealed, but no it seems he was genuinely interested in bonding.  He even opted to ride with me to the airport and see me off.  Truthfully I can't really remember the last time I felt so honored and even though I'm still a tad bit suspicious (something about an old dog I guess) I've been cursing myself ever since for not giving things a go back at the beginning of the month when there were still differences to be made.

Keeping the gym open for everyone.
(Note: NOT Jaime)
By far the most significant relationship I've fostered here has been with Jaime (Name Changed) , Co-director of Hospitality at Ranch. After our first fitness session she lingered a bit to chat and being in a rare socializing mood I was doing my best to keep the conversation rolling but I noticed that she didn't seem to be in any kind of hurry.  She was my last appointment for the day so there wasn't anything to interrupt us except a gradually imposed awareness of the time (and dinner, which I completely forgot about.  The conversation was a fairly natural evolution of self-expression and mutual appreciation for one-another's experience.

Jaimy spent a a significant portion of her childhood at Rancho and had recently been 'adopted' by Rancho's main leaders (I use quotations because the adoption occurred after her 18th birthday [She's now 24] and isn't legally binding, but in this culture they take 'spiritual adoption' rather seriously and familial terminology is strictly adhered to [often to the utter confusion of outsiders] and her new 'parents' still exercise a remarkable level of influence in Jaime's life).  She's communicated a desire to leave Rancho and attend BSSM (Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry) but is experiencing resistance from her 'parents'.

When we finally found our way out of the gym we were immediately solicited in campus wide game of hide-and-seek.  Apparently one of the Rancho kids had run 'away' and the onduty staff were running around with flashlights calling for him.  I was told it happens fairly often with one of the boys, but its not a big deal because he's afraid of the dark and never wanders far.  An hour later we found him in a tree.

I refused Jaime's offer to come eat left-overs at her parent's house because I thought it might be awkward going over there so late, but she must have realized I missed dinner that night because when I returned from my bucket bath later that night, there was a big plate of food sitting on my bed.

The next week Jaime was my best friend and we spent nearly all our free time hanging out or texting. She brought me the best Fish Tacos of my life for my lunch break, showed me the best restaurants in Tecate, and took me out with her friends for the weekend.  And just as I was beginning to feel at home, it was time to leave.  And that's how I got my first real taste of what the rest of my trip has been so far.

I tell myself I don't really have anything to write about here but even as I'm writing this there are bible students casting demons out of eachother right in front of me.  Teens with an overload of hormones, the need to feel significant, and a warped world view.  I shutter as I remember my own exorcisms back in my hardcore religious days.  Terribly awkward and forced things, too much emotional angst and no intellectual paradigm to give it a constructive meaningful form.  The screaming and spitting and frothing and puking, or trying at least trying to and all the while not trying to and uncertain if your putting on a show for yourself but you have to try it because really nothing else makes sense of how you feel in that moment.  That kid is really going to regret chucking his cell phone like that in the morning..